There was a time in my life when I actually did want to be a comic book writer. Okay, that’s a lie–if someone gave me the opportunity to write a comic book, I would jump at the chance, but that’s beside the point. Comics are one of the coolest things in the world, I think, to write (especially if you can draw, then you don’t have to find an artist), but in following series that are as lengthy in numbers like the Titans, I can see one of the major drawbacks, which is having to constantly keep your audience excited. The “Graphic Novelist” (in caps because it’s pretentious) doesn’t really have that problem because he or she can do his thing and leave satisfied. But when DC or Marvel are looking for an ongoing series to stretch beyond issue 12 or 20 and possibly into the 100’s (although the way both companies constantly reset or relaunch stuff these days, I’m amazed anything makes it past 20), you have a harder road to travel.
That’s why I have a lot of admiration for people like Marv Wolfman. Oh sure, he had some clunkers in his day–the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Brother Blood saga and some of the stuff that is coming down the road in New Titans are good examples–but the man wrote the same set of characters mostly uninterrupted for sixteen years, and constantly came up with new ideas, even if all of them weren’t the best. The Deathstroke: The Terminator series falls on the side of “good idea” because while it was obvious from the outset that while Slade Wilson was a popular anti-hero due to his “pilot” issue in New Titans #70 and role in the Titans Hunt it seems pretty clear that Wolfman wanted to write more of an adventure book than a Punisher knock-off. As the title went into its third year, he finally got that chance with “World Tour ’93,” a eight-part globe-trotting adventure that begins with the kidnapping of his ex-wife Adeline at the end of issue #26 and ends in an Indiana Jones-type fashion in issue #34.
The premise is really nothing more than that, to be honest: in issue #26, after Slade spends time on his ranch in Kenya and hunts big game, then hunts down a lionness under false pretenses (some rich guy claimed she randomly attacked and killed his son when he had his son try to kill her cubs) and is supposedly about to swear off his Deathstroke identity, Wintergreen returns from the prison he was placed in during Total Chaos and they both receive word that Adeline has been kidnapped. So begins the “World Tour,” which has a cover logo on it and an alliterative/assonant blurb on each cover (“Bullets and Babes Over Berlin!”, “Homicide in Hong Kong!”, “Endgame in Egypt!”) and begins with a splash page of action with a map in the background as he goes around the world in search of both Addie and her kidnapper, as well as what she was kidnapped for.
And that’s treasure. Some sort of huge treasure that is as unknown as Addie’s captor, and the reason Slade goes all over the world is that just about each member of the Kane family has an artifact that is basically part of the “map” to that treasure. At the beginning of issue #27, he meets up with Waller, Addie’s fiance and while the two hate one another, they put aside their differences to find her. Unfortunately, Addie’s kidnappers had the same idea and the chase continues. Waller winds up being the annoying, bitchy type whom Slade obviously would kill if he weren’t the person who his ex-wife is in love with, and things get even more complicated when they go to see Addie’s niece in Hong Kong and Slade winds up fighting the Vigilante, who has been hired by the Triad (the Chinese mafia) as a bodyguard of sorts.
Oh, and there’s a Bloodlines crossover in Annual #2 where Deathstroke visits his friend’s weapons factory to get a new batch of weapons and one of the Bloodlines aliens kills the factory owner’s son, except she doesn’t kill him and turns him into the hero called Gunfire. And the less said about Gunfire, the better.
If those last couple of paragraphs seem to be a bit of a mouthful it’s because this storyline was obviously meant to be a “roller coaster ride” of sorts … and what I described only goes up until issue #30. Just like he did at the height of the Titans Hunt, Wolfman puts the effort in to make the ending of every issue somehow suspenseful: Addie’s working with her kidnapper … a French intelligence officer from Slade’s past mixes it up with him … Addie’s first husband is the villain? And while this would be the part where I would talk about how things end up, I kind of don’t want to–and that’s not because I don’t want to keep summarizing a nine-issue (plus an annual … sort of ) story. I actually don’t want to spoil it because I’m sure this series can be easily found in the 50-cent boxes and it’s worth the price.
I’m also kind of making up for lost time here. When I first read this story nearly twenty years ago, I was subscribing to Deathstroke: The Terminator through the DC Comics subscription program. What that meant was instead of getting my issue at Amazing Comics every month, DC would mail it to me in a bag with a flimsy piece of cardstock that acted as a “board” (I tore open the polybag, threw out the card stock and bagged and boarded these properly, of course). It was kind of a fun way to receive comics because getting mail is always fun, but the drawback was that the issues usually arrived at my house at least two weeks late. That meant that if Harris–who at that point was the only other person I knew who read Deathstroke–went to the comic store and bought issue #31, I would tell him not to talk about it until I got my own copy in a couple of weeks.
Combine this with the fact that the “World Tour ’93” was going on at the same time as the end of Reign of the Supermen, Knightfall, the Green Lantern/L.E.G.I.O.N./Darkstars crossover Trinity, the X-Men crossover Fatal Attractions, and Spawn finally confronting Chapel about his death (yeah, I admit it), Deathstroke was pretty low on my reading list. At best, I breezed over the issues and filed them away, considering them forgettable because they really had no HUGE! EARTH-SHAKING! IMPACT! on the DC Universe as a whole (though I will say that there is a point where Addie gets a life-saving blood transfusion from Slade that will factor in to the book about two years down the road). I mean, it’s not like Slade Wilson lost his abilities or had metal ripped from his body, right?
Well, with the exception of the Superman and Batman stories, most of what I mentioned was hot at the time really has fallen to the bargain bin, has been retconned out of existence (okay, so in DC’s case it ALL has been retconned out of existence), or it just doesn’t hold up. And I was honestly surprised to see that Deathstroke’s “World Tour ’93” held up very well. In writing the story, Wolfman doesn’t feel the need to bring in outside characters and plays to the strengths of the supporting cast he’s been setting up since issue #1 and also plays to the strengths of his regular (and best, for this title) art team of Steve Erwin and Willie Blyberg. There isn’t much wasting about in any of the issues with all of the action going on, which at the time was a refreshing change from New Titans, where wasting about was all they seemed to be doing. It’s here where the book distances itself from its “parent” title and had editorial leadership not changed around the summer of 1994 I think that it would have continued to do so (though it may have been canceled because I’m not sure it was selling very well).
Now as for the Titans at this point in time? Well … we finally started to get some closure. But that will have to wait for next time.
Next Up: A look back at important stories in the life of Vic Stone, aka Cyborg, as we finally get ready for the resolution to his story.